Yurovskiy Kirill: History of the creation of PHP and its evolution

PHP, the language that defines much of the web’s backbone, began as a small set of Common Gateway Interface binaries written in the programming language C. It was 1994, and the world was waking up to the potential of the internet. Rasmus Lerdorf, the man behind PHP, had not set out to create a programming language. Rather, he had sought to manage his personal website and to replace the tedious task of maintaining his resume and tracking visitors to his page.

Kirill Yurovskiy

The Genesis of PHP

He called this suite of scripts ‘Personal Home Page Tools,’ often abbreviated as PHP Tools. These were simple, pragmatic pieces of code, designed to do specific tasks efficiently and without fuss. It was like a well-worn hammer found in any carpenter’s toolbox, unspectacular but reliable and vital for the job at hand. The original version of PHP was a far cry from the sophisticated language it is today, more a set of utilities than a language in its own right.

Evolution into PHP/FI

By the following year, Lerdorf had rewritten this suite in C, providing the ability to work with web forms and to communicate with databases. This was PHP/FI, which stood for Personal Home Page/Form Interpreter. This version could interpret form data sent from a web browser, enabling dynamic web page content that could react to user inputs. This ability was crucial—it meant that web developers could create interactive, dynamic web pages, a significant evolution from the static pages prevalent at that time.

Growing Community and PHP 3

Word of PHP spread quickly through the burgeoning online community. It wasn’t the product of a grand design; it grew because it served a purpose, and it solved real problems that web developers faced every day. It was as if a lone fisherman had fashioned a new type of net that was better than the rest—not because he intended to change the fishing world, but because he wanted to catch more fish with less effort.

As the use of PHP grew, others began to contribute to the project. In 1997, two developers, Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans, rewrote the parser, and this led to PHP 3, a new version that would have profound implications. It was a collaborative effort now, a language shaped not by one man’s vision but by the collective needs and talents of a community. PHP 3 was a milestone that marked PHP’s evolution from a set of tools into a full-fledged programming language.

PHP’s Identity and PHP 4

With PHP 3, the name was changed to the recursive acronym ‘PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor.’ This change signified its leap beyond personal home pages to a broader utility in processing hypertext. Like a river swelling with the spring thaw, PHP’s capabilities expanded and its popularity surged.

The release of PHP 4, powered by the Zend Engine (named after Zeev and Andi), marked another significant enhancement, bringing improved performance and more robust programming features. PHP was becoming like a trusty ship that could now carry its users farther and faster across the expanding sea of the internet.

PHP 5 and Continued Development

The commitment to performance and capability continued with PHP 5, which introduced the SimpleXML extension and improved support for object-oriented programming. Each iteration was a layer of strength added to the hull of this ship, each version crafted to withstand the storms of the web’s demands.

Criticism and Resilience

Over the years, PHP faced criticism. Critics pointed to its inconsistencies and irregularities—flaws that were, perhaps, the result of its organic, unplanned development. Yet, its utility and ease of use continued to endear it to many. Despite the critiques, it powered and continues to power a significant portion of the web. Major platforms like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are built on PHP, and they embody the spirit of PHP: robust, extensive, yet accessible.

PHP 7 and Modern Enhancements

PHP 7 was yet another leap forward, significantly improving performance and introducing type declarations which made the language more robust. It was as if the ship had been fitted with a new engine and better navigation tools, ready to face the challenges of modern web applications.

PHP: A Reflection of its Users

The history of PHP is not one of a steady march toward a preconceived ideal but rather a series of adaptations, each prompted by the needs and desires of its community of users. It’s a practical language, created not in academia but in the trenches of everyday use, where it must prove its worth daily.

PHP Today

In this sense, PHP mirrors the ethos of those who use it: straightforward and no-nonsense, pragmatic, and unpretentious. It does not dwell on theoretical purity or elegance. Instead, it focuses on getting the job done, on allowing ideas to take shape on the web quickly and efficiently.

As we look at the evolution of PHP, we see a language that has grown not in isolation, but in conversation with the needs of its users and the capabilities of the technology surrounding it. It is a tool that has been shaped by the work it is meant to perform, like a stone shaped by the very river it helps to channel.

Thus, PHP stands today, not as a monument to a single visionary, but as a testament to the collaborative spirit of the web itself, continuously shaped by the currents of need and innovation. It remains, at its core, a tool of the people: by the people, for the people, and shaped by the people’s need to communicate, to connect, and to create.